Football can be a life-changing experience in a number of ways. For former Mount Saint Joseph, turned Atholton quarterback Luke Casey, it’s been the stabilizing force in an otherwise unpredictable journey.
The former Howard County star attended three colleges in three different states and spent the greater part of this year living outside the country, but his dedication to football has remained unchanged.
“I’ve been through a lot of different things that have been self-inflicted, things that I have put on myself,” said Casey. “As far as anything, there’s been like two or three things that have been with me through this whole journey from high school until now playing football professionally overseas — my family, my faith and football. Those have been the only things that have been constant in my life.”
After graduating from Atholton in 2013, Casey began college at the University of Rhode Island before transferring to Howard Community College and spending a year away from the game. He eventually wrapped up his collegiate career playing football with West Virginia Wesleyan College for three seasons before embarking on his professional football pursuits this spring in France for the St. Ouen l’Aumône Cougars.
"Whether it was a new team in Rhode Island or West Virginia or France, there were always good people around me that were helping me improve myself, have confidence, dust myself off when bad things happen and get back up,” he said.
In France, Casey was the Cougar’s passing (1,621 yards, 14 touchdowns) and rushing leader (490 yards, six touchdowns) this past season. He helped lead the team to a 6-4 record and eventually to the league’s title game.
“We’re a pretty historically good club in France,” said Casey of his team. “So, it was great because my club looked out for us as far as our housing. We had a car, we had transportation with the train and bus passes and meals. To live over there and be cared for and to have everything taken care of was like college, but it was better. You were on your own, you didn’t have a dorm, you felt like you were out there on your own.
“You also didn’t feel far from home because you had people looking after you. Living there was incredible — it was my best experience to date.”
The level of competition in France is similar to Division II football in the United States. The biggest difference is the amount of time spent at the practice facilities. Instead of practicing six times a week, teams practice 3-4 times each week with the players taking a more hands-on approach.
As the quarterback, the onus was put on Casey and his head coach to teach the receivers which routes to run in certain situations.
While playing football in France is a dream come true for the former Atholton star, it’s been a winding road to get to this point.
His life changed drastically on Aug. 1, 2014. During the summer after his freshman year at the University of Rhode Island, Casey, then 19, was arrested and with second-degree assault of his then-girlfriend, disorderly conduct and two counts of possession of false identification while attending the Mad Decent Block Party back home in Maryland.
He was subsequently suspended from the football team and ended up attending school at HCC.
It wasn’t until a year later that he found himself back on the field at quarterback for West Virginia Wesleyan during the 2015 season. He ended up playing in seven games, throwing for 1,220 yards with 12 touchdowns. He was named the MEC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against Virginia-Wise where he threw for 317 yards.
He went on to play in 12 games total during the 2016 (five) and 2017 (seven) seasons.
It wasn’t the first time that Casey had dealt with massive changes. He began playing high school football in the MIAA with Mount Saint Joseph during his sophomore season before transferring to Atholton.
For the Gaels, Casey produced solid numbers despite his team playing to a 3-6 record. But without being able to obtain the full confidence of his coach at the private school, the quarterback felt a change was needed.
“I was motivated, whether it’d be a coach or whoever telling me that I wasn’t good enough or I wasn’t where I was supposed to be," Casey said. "Instead of just giving up — I thought about it — I worked really hard. For the first time in my life because of that move and that transfer, because of what people were telling me at St. Joe and because of the expectations that I had for myself — I felt that I really needed to make a mark.”
During those summer months before his junior year and during his time at Atholton, Casey would wake up in the morning to throw each day and made a push in the weight room. His head coach at Atholton and now-Archbishop Spalding head coach Kyle Schmitt continued to assist Casey to reach that next step in his game.
At Atholton, he was able to make his mark — being named team captain in 2012, while also leading the team to a 10-2 season and being named the team MVP that year. Despite the perceived drop off in talent coming from the MIAA, where players are often recruited, Casey had a newfound respect for players that he played with and against in Howard County.
“There’s just as many talented guys in Howard County playing ball in my age range as there were in the MIAA,” said Casey. “In the MIAA they were allowed a lot more time with the coaches and to practice with each other, whether that would be in the summer or during the springtime getting those extra workouts. I think that as a team, it’s a lot easier to be a solid unit and a solid group in the MIAA."